A Poem by Gerard Garrigan, OSB

John Prine, Erstwhile Mailman

John Prine, to my mind, you were a lot like me,
Son of a blue-collar father, from a blue-collar suburb
In the heart of our beloved Midwest, fly-over land,
About whose inhabitants you told such heart-felt tales
Of the tormented, troubled, hurting, searching souls
The lonely housewife, the veteran with the hole in his arm
And sweet Marie, baby Marie after whom that lake was named
You the Mark Twain of the folk and country song
Whom Dylan and Johnny Cash so very much revered
You the erstwhile mailman in Maywood
Walking your route while working out those songs
Just like my daddy the mailman in Glasgow
Walking his route and meditating on Merton
Oh, you knew your stock came from Paradise,
From Paradise, Kentucky, the state where long ago,
Ancestors of mine also called their home
You who said, “I look busy for a living.”
You did nothing, and did it so very, very well
You beat the cancer, returning to write and sing your songs
But then that virus came along and real, real strong
And even though she never managed to call you by your name,
You finally heard it when your Savior called you home by name
When in the fullness of God’s good time, yes, his good time,
Your Savior called you home where you will never be alone
To join your folk down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Where now you are standing, standing by peaceful waters
Standing forever with all your folk from Muhlenberg County
You, the erstwhile mailman, my daddy and baby Marie
Yes, you the erstwhile mailman, my daddy and sweet Marie
Standing, standing by peaceful waters, standing by peaceful waters

Gerard Garrigan, OSB is a Benedictine monk of Saint Louis Abbey in St. Louis, Missouri. Free digital copies of his poetry may be obtained by emailing him at frgerard@priory.org.

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